The recent pandemic has altered all our lives, and many of us have turned to the natural world right now more than ever to get outside and relieve stress and anxiety. During this time, it is important to not only follow CDC and Federal social distancing guidelines related to over-use of public lands, but to actively practice outdoor ethics related to misuse so our outdoor places (and all of us) stay safe and healthy. Nevada Outdoor School is here to support you and help provide tools and resources to be safe and responsible while getting outdoors.
With more people wanting to explore and enjoy our public lands, recreating responsibly is extremely important so these places are not over-used, destroyed, or shut down due to misuse. For many people, time spent outdoors is a cherished and essential part of life they value and wish to pass on to future generations. Unfortunately, misuse of these places can lead to many negative consequences including destruction and harm to natural resources and in some cases closures of public lands. In recent weeks, during hikes in local recreation areas, employees from Nevada Outdoor School stumbled upon a fire still smoldering in a fire pit with garbage scattered about and no one around, as well as a new, unestablished fire ring just off the trail with garbage left behind. These actions cause harm to the native wildlife and vegetation, not to mention the strong possibility of starting a wildfire. No one wants this to happen, especially so close to town and during a global pandemic when fighting wildfires is going to be even more challenging and difficult to manage. Practicing responsible recreation techniques and helping others do the same is extremely important. You can start small by having a family discussion about outdoor ethics and what it means for your family. That may mean taking a walk around your block and picking up trash on your street, or practicing putting a campfire “dead out” in your backyard firepit or firepan. The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace ( ) provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. Nevada Outdoor School also has a variety of information and outdoor ethics games and activities on our website ( ) that you can use to educate yourself and your family about responsible recreation.
The outbreak of COVID-19 and the need to help slow the spread of this virus has led to many public land closures around the country, including some of our local recreation areas such as Water Canyon and the Sand Dunes. Although frustrating, following local, state and federal guidelines right now is essential. A big part of responsible recreation is staying informed and being prepared before you ever leave your house, as well as the willingness to change your plans when needed. Let’s say you plan on going for a family hike; check to make sure where you plan on going is open. Stay local; based on recent Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics research findings, 49.9% of respondents are recreating within two miles of their homes. Bring extra trash bags and pack out yours (or other people’s) trash. Many places are not emptying their receptacles as often as normal or potentially not at all, so be sure that whatever you pack in with you, you pack out and take it to your home receptacles. Practicing social distancing when recreating is also important. If you get to a place and there are a lot of cars or people already there, try to go somewhere else where there are not as many people. Social distancing isn’t only keeping a 6-foot distance from others but also preventing the encounter from the start. Picking a different day, or off time, could allow you to enjoy the trail without being concerned about running into others.
Looking for other outdoor-based things to do to relieve stress and anxiety and create a lasting positive memory close to home during this time of uncertainty? Why not try building a fort, camping in your backyard, going on a neighborhood scavenger hunt, or even try something new as a family like growing a garden? Especially right now, you do not need to show your kids the whole world, you are their whole world. Enjoy that local experience, get your vitamin N (nature), but remember to practice social distancing guidelines and recreate responsibly.
For more information, ideas, and resources during this time, Nevada Outdoor School is here to help! Check out our website or reach out to and we will work with you personally!
Be safe out there and remember to enjoy our amazing natural world responsibly!